Faith Formation Travel to the Holy Land

There are so many things in my life today that I never dreamed I would be doing.

I used to go for walks near the farm where we used to live. I would walk to a little country church and wander through the cemetery thinking, “Wouldn’t it be fun to pastor a church like this?” All while never believing it could be true.

I have a theory in my relationship with God. I think that if I say, “I will never (insert item here).” God takes it and makes it happen. I was never going to be a pastor (I have been one for 2 ½ years now). I was never going to live in North Dakota (I’ve been here since 1991). My kids were never going to play hockey (two of them did for a total of 12 years). I was never going to do foster care or adopt children (yeah, that’s happening too). And we won’t even talk about the Buick I used to drive and the split-level house I used to live in.

And when I say things like, “Wouldn’t it be fun to travel to the Holy Land?” I say it with such doubt. I never, ever believe that it is even a possibility. But God seems to have a sense of humor in my life.

By the way, that country church where I wandered through the cemetery? Yeah, I serve there!

I think that’s one of the most amazing take-aways from my trip to the Holy Land 4 years ago. God can do and does amazing things. I had to pinch myself every day while I was there to believe that it was actually coming true.

The trip itself was a whirlwind of sights and sounds and smells and tastes. From the bread of the Arab market to the sounds of singing in the ancient cathedrals to the smells at the Dead Sea, it all defines that place where Jesus stepped on the earth.

As I sat on a boat on the waters of the Sea of Galilee, I looked to the shore to the north of us and saw where Jesus fed the 5000 and preached the Beatitudes. I could see across the water to the shore where Jesus healed the Geresene demoniac and sent the demon-possessed pigs off the cliff. I could imagine a storm coming up quickly and the distant shores being erased by the clouds and rain. It all took my breath away. I could feel those stories changing inside me. They were so much more than the words in a bible on a Sunday morning. They began to come to life in front of me. They made Jesus come to life in front of me.

I know that not everyone is cut out to travel around the world and walk in the land of the bible (and the land of the two other Abrahamic faiths). But I want you to take a lesson from God’s work in my life. Amazing things are possible – even for doubters and naysayers like me. A friend of mine who just adopted two kids told me yesterday that her life was a beautiful mess. I think that is a great description of my life too. Once I surrendered the vision I had and admitted that maybe God’s vision was okay too, I can finally see the beauty in this crazy mess!

I hope God has a sense of humor in your life too. I hope that you find yourself in places you never dreamed you would be. And I hope that God uses you in ways you never thought were possible!

Pastor Sarah Raymond, Grand Forks Rural Parish

It was such a profound trip for me that I am planning to go back this fall. If you would like to find out more, click on the link below or give me a call, text or email! My cell is 701-740-1651